Along with the growing and massively popularity of the Netflix series, The Umbrella Academy franchise is now coming out with a card/board-game. The Umbrella Academy Game is a Kickstarter that was completely funded and hit many goals in a short period of time. I was lucky enough to be sent an early version of the game to test it out. As cool as it is to have control over some of my favorite characters and fight just about every villain from the comics, the gameplay is extremely simple and, as of writing this, not well refined or made.
Starting with the good things, the art and the quality of the contents is surprisingly good, especially for being an early set of cards. The design and usage of the characters and images from the comics is really nice, but I think some original art for some of the cards would’ve been a nice touch. Some of the images are duplicated and can be confusing here and there. The overall idea of the game is fairly interesting and good too; use Umbrella Academy attack cards to match and beat the opponents while healing and slowly gaining power for the ultimate fight versus the biggest and baddest villains. It’s a cool concept and is a fun way to feel like you’re living and playing through a majority of the Umbrella Academy comics on every playthrough.
Unfortunately, this is all that I found to be positive about the game right now. I understand that this is in some level of testing and that the Kickstarter just closed, meaning that they will be working on creating/refining the game, but I am honestly surprised that they even sent out the game in the state for it to be tested. The major issue that I have with this game is that mechanics are terribly simple and come down to practicality and math. It literally is just a bunch of math problems with The Umbrella Academy characters printed on cards. Enemies will come up with certain amounts of attack, and the players must beat the opponents or take damage by matching cards in players’ hands or adding modifiers. The problem is that the heroes either have to draw more powerful cards or just use their special abilities to automatically kill or beat the opponents, it is all down to the enemy drawn cards ending up being less than what the players have in their hands. Yes, some of the abilities of the characters add depth, but it never feels like strategy or wits outplays the sheer math of the game. With a few minutes of simple addition and process of elimination, players can figure out the perfect and optimized options, or just die.
I played on my own and with other people and each round of killing enemies only took a minute or two with very little discussion or strategy because it was literally doing simple addition and matching to overcome enemies. Maybe the system work with a lot more creativity in character powers, better definition of when players and enemies attack and use abilities, but as of now, the gameplay felt more like an advanced math class activity with a comic book twist instead of a game. I’m hoping that things will be refined and changed and made into a much deeper game, but a lot of things will have to change in order to make this a truly strategic and replayable game.
The last critique is that the rule book that it came with it is pretty long and yet not extremely helpful. Many cards aren’t defined well and it is unclear when players can use certain things and rules for certain numbers of players seem off or not even included. Many times I was asking myself if I could do this or that and the rule book not offering any direction or guidance.
If you are a huge fan of The Umbrella Academy comics, then this game might entertain you or be cool for collection purposes. But I would not recommend investing until they wildly improve the game as a whole. And for board game enthusiasts, I doubt there would be any major reason to play this game unless there is a complete and total overhaul of the basic gameplay and a stack of high praising reviews.